Recent events amongst the North’s political elite show that mainstream politics has changed a lot over the past 15 years. Amidst all the tabloid frenzy it’s easy to forget where we came from. Corruption at the highest levels of government and salacious affairs may be preferable to war on our streets, but it isn't democracy and we know it.The revelations about the Adams and Robinson families may impact on some prominent figures themselves and may yet have implications for Stormont and the saga of devolved policing powers. Yet in truth the real issues lie much deeper and are more painful, yet real for all of us concerned with working towards a just and equal society. And the worst has yet to come.

The North’s recent past will not easily be brushed away. The sex lives of consenting adults, married or otherwise, isn't the issue here. None of us need lessons in morality from Christian fundamentalists who would like to turn the clock back 100 years. Nor should any group which operated “safe houses” for the rapists of children be considered legitimate They have deservedly lost any legitimacy they had through their (in)actions.

We are witnessing, and are part of, a society that for decades was dominated by violence, sexism and hard men, and by ultra-conservative religious institutions and political parties. Victims killed and injured as a direct result of violence by all armed participants are remembered publicly and rightly so. However there are many victims within our society who have had no little or no voice and whose plight gets little attention.

Violence against women and children was, and still is, common. Last year there were over 5,500 recorded crimes of “domestic abuse” carried out on women over the age of 17. This included 68 rapes and almost 90 other sexual assaults. In the same time period there were 774 recorded crimes of domestic abuse of children under 17. Given the low rate of reporting the real figures are likely to be considerably higher.

In terms of the organised emotional, sexual and physical abuse of children, there is no reason to believe that the protection afforded to clergy abusing children by the Catholic Church was less prevalent in the north than it was in the south. That church didn't change when it crossed the border and hasn’t changed. However the full extent is still not known.

Even less publicly acknowledged are the cases concerning members of the RUC protecting paedophile rings. One such as that around William McGrath and the TARA paramilitary group, which also included the sadistic murderer and leader of the Red Hand Commando, John McKeague. The wall of silence around this still needs to be broken.

Within loyalist and republican communities, punishment beatings and murders were carried out by self-appointed judge/jury/executioner armies, seemingly stamping out “anti-social” behaviour but primarly reinforcing local paramilitary authority. Yet men who regularly beat the shit out of wives, partners and children continued to be accepted in their community, and indeed in some cases were members of those same organisations.

We can’t allow these realities to be airbrushed from our society’s collective memories. We owe it to today's survivors of abuse and to future generations to give expression to the depraved and abusive realities that unquestioned authority engenders. Whilst child abuse and violence against women is common across the globe, the particulars of the North’s conflict have left many unable to openly question and challenge it.

Untangling patterns of abusive behaviour is a necessary component to ensuring we live in a society where victims of abuse get full support and that perpetrators are not hidden but made accountable. What remained hidden behind the closed and militarised communities of the troubles and the doors of churches should never be allowed to happen again.

As anarchists we are committed to ridding our communities and society of the sexist ideas and repression that have fostered such abuse. We are committed to building just structures to replace capitalism and greed. Both go hand in hand in ridding our society of organised exploitation and injustice.

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